Mosque Fever Puts Mike Bloomberg Down in the Polls, But Up With the Voice. 'Thanks a lot,' Says Mayor

Just how heavy a lift Mike Bloomberg took on last week when he ferried over to Governors Island to put the downtown mosque debate in the context of this city's great tradition of religious freedom came a little clearer yesterday with the new polls: He's way down.

For the first time in five years -- mind you, that's a stretch that includes his 2008 third-term council coup -- the mayor is notching just shy of 50 percent approval rating.

Bloomberg came in at a 49 percent approval rate in yesterday's Marist poll, down from 56 percent in April. The biggest drop in the mayor's support bloc? Jewish New Yorkers, whose backing fell a whopping 15 percent. Marist poll director Lee Miringoff, who uses such words sparingly, called the plunge "significant."

Here's another interesting breakout tab from the poll: The only borough where a majority of residents are not opposed to the mosque? Manhattan, where the mosque/cultural center will sit. Manhattanites gave a thumping thumbs up, 53 percent to 31 percent, to the center. Queens and Staten Island logged in at 2-1 against; Brooklyn was 61% opposed, 31% in favor; it was 53%/30% in the Bronx.

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Although his Rice Krispies went down the wrong tube when he heard the news this morning, the Voice also cast a lonely vote for Bloomberg's let-them-be religious freedom speech in this week's paper, calling it "a brave and good deed for this city." Let's just say that the Bloomberg popularity ratings here go slightly against the grain.

Also headed in the opposite direction yesterday was Gov. David Paterson. Saying he was just trying to be helpful, the gov suggested that he was willing to provide state-owned land to relocate the center further away from the Ground Zero hot zone.

"Frankly, if the sponsors were looking for property anywhere at a distance that would be such that it would accommodate a better feeling among the people who are frustrated, I would look into trying to provide them with the state property they would need." Such a move, as a couple law professors told Salon's Justin Elliott, would be more than a few steps across the state/religion divide. "They're really giving government aid to religion," Boston law school professor Jay Wexler told Salon.

Paterson's spokesman Morgan Hook immediately backpedaled when queried about that problem. "There are church and state issues here," he said.

But let's not give the gov too hard a time about it. It's August, and, as the great Mose Allison says, his mind is on vacation, but his mouth is working overtime.


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